JERUSALEM – Israel says it has documents that prove Yasser Arafat is personally linked to terrorism, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be showing the evidence to President Bush in Washington.
Israeli Cabinet Minister Dan Naveh presented the 91-page book of documents and translations to reporters shortly after Sharon took off for the United States, where he is to see Bush on Tuesday. Sharon hopes to persuade Bush to brand Arafat a terrorist and exclude him from Middle East peace moves.
A Palestinian official dismissed the documents as forgeries.
Naveh said many of the documents were confiscated during Israel's military operation in the West Bank last month. During the operation, Israeli troops searched through scores of Palestinian ministry offices, often causing extensive damage.
Naveh, a member of Sharon's Likud party, said the report was proof that Israel could never negotiate with Arafat. "As long as Arafat is leader of the Palestinian Authority then the [Palestinian] choice is not for peace," he said.
Included in the report are documents which Naveh said were copies of requests for funds for Palestinian militants signed and approved by Arafat. However, none shows a direct link between the Palestinian leadership and specific acts of violence.
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo labeled the booklet "ridiculous."
"All of these documents that are mentioned were forged," Abed Rabbo said, adding that financial assistance was given to Palestinians in "a very bad economic situation."
One document in the booklet is a request for $2,500 for three militants, including Raed Karmi, a top commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, who was killed in a Jan. 14 explosion widely attributed to Israel. In a handwritten reply on the letter, Arafat writes, "Allocate $600 for each one," and signs his name. Karmi's death set off a bloody series of retaliatory strikes against Israelis.
A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Karmi document was authentic.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is an offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement that has taken responsibility for dozens of shooting and suicide bomb attacks on Israeli citizens.
The Palestinians have said that the funds were used for political and social welfare activities.
Another document requesting funds, passed on from an Al-Aqsa militia leader to Arafat via recently-arrested Fatah official Marwan Barghouti, also requests funds for fellow "brothers in arms," who Israel says are responsible for deadly attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The Palestinian Authority also used funds from donor states to pay the salaries of hundreds of militants, a sum Naveh described as "tens of millions of dollars." Among the donors, Naveh specifically mentioned the sum of $9 million a month from the European Union to the Palestinian Authority which was "used indirectly to finance terrorist acts."
The Palestinian Authority had also maintained ties with extremist Arab regimes, Naveh said, accusing Iraq, Iran and Syria of providing funds and encouraging weapons smuggling. Naveh blamed Syria for "pouring" money to Islamic militant groups, allowing them to construct "terrorist infrastructures" in places like Jenin.
Saudi Arabia had systematically transferred funds to the families of killed militants, including suicide bombers, and also to Islamic militant groups, he said.
The report also provides photocopies of Palestinian Authority documents listing weaponry stockpiled in armories, among them anti-tank missiles and heavy-caliber machine guns. According to interim peace accords, the Palestinian Authority is not allowed to acquire such weapons.
Arafat and the Palestinian leadership have often condemned attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, most recently in a Cabinet statement Friday which said the Palestinian Authority "rejects and condemns all operations against civilians, whether Palestinians or Israelis."
But Israel says Arafat's words are not backed up by actions, and accuse Arafat of encouraging attacks and inciting Palestinians against Israelis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.